Not Just Any Portal in a Storm

As a business decision-maker or IT executive, you've noticed the increased competition in both the portal and CRM markets. This can be attributed to three primary factors, which are market consolidation, evolving portal development standards like JSR 168 and WSRP, and the increasing customer demand for personalized portals. While the consolidation and standards battle will bring about its own Darwinian market shift, the most critical differentiator for the portal vendor will be the ability to respond to customer demands for personalization. Where customer demands end and vendor offerings begin is usually determined by budget. This, in turn, has sparked a new school of thought that believes that if the portal is going to constantly evolve, it might be easier to cut initial costs by investing in a shell and customizing it later. The any-portal-in-a-storm approach often misses the mark, however, in terms of its ability to dynamically respond to each user's needs based on their interest, segment, market, and history. This tactical approach usually fails, because the underlying infrastructure doesn't support or integrate various applications through an open development environment. As the portal market strives for competitive differentiators, it is tapping into the proven value of CRM offerings. After all, portal personalization and CRM tools are based on leveraging technology to give the end user customized experiences, while anticipating their future needs. Further strengthening a personalized offering, many portal vendors are aligning with CRM providers. A good example of this is a portal working in concert with analytics to deliver personalized user experiences by integrating various applications that instantly adapt and change according to the user's navigation. However, the key to building a successful, personalized portal is by fully integrating a wide variety of enterprise applications, including CRM, ERP, legacy, third-party applications and homegrown solutions that can come from a range of sources. Most important, the portal is not simply a launching pad. Rather, it allows users to fully manage business applications and transactions from within the portal. Each organization has unique requirements for deploying a personalized portal, but the following five principles can be found in almost every successful portal deployment:
  • an organizational commitment to supporting and sustaining the portal as part of a strategic IT initiative;
  • viewing the portal as a start and end point to the users' business day,
  • selecting an open architecture that easily integrates various enterprise applications;
  • dispelling the silo or departmental approach to portal deployment; and
  • accommodating the individual needs of every user--employees, customers, and partners--in the organization as they navigate through the portal. If you're considering the tactical any portal in a storm approach to portal deployment, think twice about the larger strategic initiatives that will provide personalized experiences so users can maximize their work performance while increasing customer satisfaction. About the Author Ken Bisconti, vice president, collaboration and human interaction products for IBM, oversees the business strategy, go-to-market planning, product marketing, and product management of IBM's collaboration and portal offerings, most notably the IBM Lotus Workplace and WebSphere Portal. In his previous role as vice president of lotus channels and alliances, Ken led Lotus' business partner programs, strategic alliances, and go-to-market strategy. Since joining Lotus in January 1994 Ken has served in a variety of positions, including vice president of marketing for messaging and collaboration solutions and vice president of product marketing for Lotus' entire product portfolio. Prior to that he served as senior director of communications product marketing for Lotus Notes, Lotus Domino, and other communications products. Ken has also held roles in competitive strategy and channel sales. Before joining IBM's Lotus brand, Ken was an IT architect with the IBM Consulting Group, where he designed groupware implementation plans and developed applications for large enterprises.
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